Leslie Shows reinvigorates the practice of landscape painting with large, materially rich pieces that reflect a vast continuum of geological and human change. Through broad gestures and intricate details, she articulates a world in which we are but fleeting specks.

Two Ways to Organize suggests both the big bang paradigm of energy explosion and a look back at today from a distant future. A variety of found images appear within ribbons of acrylic paint, rust, and mud. Little paint splotches and collaged cutouts recall particles organizing themselves into the beginning of the universe, while residue of present-day hobbyists shows up in gridded needlepoint patterns, which stand in for crystalline structures. The surface also bears several small faux-metal scrapbook labels, which ordinarily serve as organizing tools for hypothetical memories. In Shows's composition they are trapped in amber, made into archaeological relics of contemporary middle America.


  • Title: Two Ways to Organize
  • Creator: Leslie Shows
  • Creator Lifespan: 1977
  • Creator Nationality: American
  • Creator Gender: Female
  • Creator Birth Place: Manteca, California
  • Date Created: 2006
  • Physical Dimensions: w2082.8 x h2082.8 in (overall)
  • Type: painting
  • Rights: © Leslie Shows
  • External Link: SFMOMA
  • Medium: Acrylic, charcoal, metal, mud, rust, and collage on panel
  • More Info: More About This Artist - SFMOMA
  • Credit Line: James and Eileen Ludwig Fund purchase
  • About the Artist: Leslie Shows grew up in Juneau, Alaska. "Glaciers, calcified mining ruins, and rainy rebar-strewn lots were my playgrounds," she recalls. An avid reader, researcher, and thinker, Shows plans her works for a long time before realizing them; each is the result of what she calls a sort of "brain frenzy." Once she has her compositions in mind, she prepares many of her materials before applying them to the huge sheets of mulberry paper that support each work. She "grows" her own salt and rust; brushes acrylic paint onto Plexiglas and then peels it off in skins; and culls images from magazines and the web. The results are synthetic, symbolically potent assemblages that hold both micro and macro lenses onto ancient lands ravaged by short-term occupants.

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